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Pinnacle Bivouac, West Coast

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July 2021 Issue

High bivvies are always located in dramatic country and Pinnacle Biv is no exception as it sits near the edge of a precipice into the Kokatahi Valley in Westland and commands a superb view.

This is a tough trip for the fit and determined as the track climbs 1200m through demanding terrain dominated by a big river and numerous side streams. 

Beginning in easy farmland near Lake Kaniere, the route follows marker posts through flats and bush terraces to the spectacular swingbridge over the Whakarira Gorge (a worthwhile trip in its own right). 

Cross the bridge, which can be awkward to get onto from this approach, and follow the rough and slippery track which climbs around the gorge on the true left before dropping back to the Kokatahi River at Adamson Creek. This large creek can be difficult to ford, so check river conditions before you enter the valley and be prepared to return if you are unable to cross. 

Once over the creek, the route now wanders along at riverside before heading into the forest again about 200m farther up valley. At this point, the track slowly begins to climb the hillside above the fearsome gorge below, which is mostly sensed, and only rarely glimpsed. 

There are several small side streams on this section and one in particular which has an apparently scary exit up a rib above a chasm. But don’t be concerned as it is quite safe if the stream is not running high. 

Once on the rib, the climb starts in earnest and heads above the streams and back into quieter terrain where it contours and climbs around the hillside to reach Boo Boo Hut set in deep forest on a knob. 

The track to Pinnacle Bivvy starts about 150m before Boo Boo Hut and climbs directly above a small stream and later a steep rib leading to sub-alpine scrub and some open clearings. 

Now the track swings south-west and continues along a narrow crest and open tussock flats to reach Pt1085m. Take care to follow the markers here as there are many drop-offs right at the trackside. 

The track swings around Pt1085 to the east and south and descends into a scrubby hollow from where it climbs out again to ascend steeply just south of a bluff face all the way to the scrub edge. There are spectacular views all the way along this section and plenty of excellent photo stops to take in the dramatic nature of the mountain and gorge scenery all around. 

It is then only 200m of easy, but lumpy, travel to reach the orange dog-box of Pinnacle Bivouac, set just above a large freshwater tarn. The bivvy sleeps two in spartan comfort. In autumn and winter, it is a cold place to spend the night with no insulation and often lots of snow. Campsites are few and poor. 

However, the setting is majestic with an overwhelming sense of space and airiness directly out from the bivvy over the vast reaches of the upper Kokatahi and surrounding peaks.

It is quite easy to scamper up to Crinkle Top (1315m), just west of the bivvy, and, if time and conditions allow, to carry on along the steep ridge, bypassing bluffed sections, through gullies to the south, to reach the main ridge and Genoa Peak (1503m). But this should not be attempted in bad weather or cloudy conditions as the terrain is confusing.


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Distance
9.96km to biv
Total Ascent
1408m
Grade
Difficult
Time
To Boo Boo Hut, 3-4hr; To Pinnacle Biv, 2-3hr
Accom.
Boo Boo Hut ($5, four bunks), Pinnacle Bivouac (free, two bunks)
Access
From 500m down Middlebranch Road, off Upper Kokatahi Road. Permission must be obtained from the farm to cross the flats
Map
BV19